“Smooth jazz” was a sub-genre, then, of jazz which drew upon other contemporary styles to make the music more accessible. The majority of tracks featured a much stronger melody than jazz but not than commercial music. The tempi of jazz were slowed to an easy, laid-back pace. The backgrounds tended to become more predictable, more formulaic, almost like canned music, and the edge of these backgrounds was blunted by the use of strings or other orchestral instruments. The favored instruments in this style were first the soprano or tenor sax, with the guitar coming in second places.
The recordings were a huge commercial success, but
His playing style was an unusual one in that he did not pluck with his fingers and he never learned to use a pick. Instead he plucked with his thumb, with the fingers of his hand splayed on the guitar face for support and balance. Since he worked late hours and often practiced between the end of the gig and the beginning of his early morning shift at the factory, he played with his thumb instead of a pick in order not to wake his wife. The use of the thumb gave a bassier, mellower tone than that of his contemporaries. Hs thumb was double jointed and he could bend it back to touch his wrist, and little carnival trick he loved to use to make people uncomfortable. Even so,
Critics have noted that his approach to soloing was multi-tiered. He followed the combo tradition of playing the head (melody of the composition) in single notes for the first and last stanzas, grounding he piece. The usual improvisational treatment of the first stanza or two was to use single-line melodies. In the subsequent stanza or two,